As I drove in to work this evening the familiar voice of a piano professor here spilled out of the car speakers that generally only bring me voices of people like Steve Inskeep, Michele Norris, Scott Simon and the other body-less NPR friends that follow me through my days. She was explaining that Annea Lockwood composed an avant-garde piece in which a piano is burned. It’s called “Piano Burning” (which strikes me as a not very avant-garde name for such a piece), and tonight they’re performing it on campus.
Arriving on campus, there was the dilapidated piano standing alone in the middle of the Bald Spot, waiting to be burned.
Pianos I’ve known have always lived in warm, homey spaces, or stood in state on a stage. They’ve always felt like they calmly conceal the potential to thrill you tomorrow or next year or when your grandchildren come to visit. They’ve always promised great things for the people who can touch them with care and skill, and for the people those artists know.
This piano, though, is just sitting in the middle of its rectangle of cleared earth in the middle of a wide, blank field, hunched under the gathering clouds, and waiting to be burned. I’ve never seen such a starkly alone piano.
And then they burned it.